How to dance with fire
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Fire & Performance2022-01-12T11:34:49-08:00
Fire & Performance Classes
Fire has always been a powerful, mythic element for humans. It has played a significant role in our history and molded our very way of life. Fire performers have a deep respect for the flame and know that by no means do they ever have total control over it. At The Crucible, you can learn to safely manipulate fire’s captivating power, and learn to make and use various tools like poi, fire staffs, hula-hoops and the fire rope dart.
Upcoming Bay Area Fire & Performance Courses
Browse below for all upcoming Fire & Performance classes. Please note that due to safety concerns surrounding COVID-19, all upcoming Crucible classes are in-person with strict health and safety policies in place for students, faculty, and staff. You must review all Crucible policies before registering.
Fire Eating I
Amaze an audience with your new skills as a fire eater! You will learn the science and safety behind basic tricks so you can fearlessly perform with open flame. You will learn...
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Fire Poi: Introduction
Learn to spin fire! Both a dance form and a style of juggling, poi spinning is an expressive performance art that uses weighted lines swung in circular patterns around the body....
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Fire Hula Hoop I
Build coordination and confidence as you construct your own practice PVC hula hoop and learn basic tricks with and without fire. You will learn beginner on-body and off-body moves,...
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Meet The Fire & Performance Department Head: Shaina Johnson
Shaina’s performance career started with ballet at age four, and after exploring many forms of dance, she discovered a passion for fire performance in 2001. Shaina first performed at The Crucible at the celebration for our new Oakland location in 2003. As an instructor, Shaina strives to create a supportive environment for participants to explore new skills by imbuing her classes with warmth, humor, and engaging, hands-on activities. Her classes emphasize safety, learning at one’s own pace, interactivity, and community creation.
Fire & Performance Adult Classes
The Crucible offers a wide variety of adult classes teaching different fire performance techniques. Whether you want to learn the fundamentals of eating fire or how to dance with poi, The Crucible has you covered. See the complete list of fire performance classes offered below.
Note: Due to COVID-19, we’re unable to offer all of the classes listed below at this time. You can sign up to be notified when specific classes are offered or browse a list of upcoming classes here.
Fire Eating I
Amaze an audience with your new skills as a fire eater! You will learn the science and safety behind basic tricks so you can fearlessly perform with open flame. You will learn tracing (how to run fire along the surface of your skin), transfers (moving flame from one source or position to another), various extinguishes, and tips for putting on a great show. You also will make your own set of torches to take home.
Fire Eating II
Expand your performance repertoire by learning intermediate fire eating tricks. Construct a new pair of torches and explore vapor tricks and transfers, jellyfish variations, human candles, and more! You will also learn basic choreography, transitions, and stage blocking to best showcase your new talents.
PREREQUISITE: Fire Eating I
Flame Effects I
Learn to design and build safe, effective, beautiful flame effect sculptures with propane. You will learn many different ways of manipulating fire for use in sculpture, including accumulator poofer effects, propane and liquid fuel effects, igniters, and electronic controls.
PREREQUISITE: Fire Safety
Flame Effects II
In this intermediate course, make safe, effective, and beautiful propane and liquid fuel flame effects. You’ll design and build flame effects sculptures in class working with an instructor and a variety of materials. Build upon your fire effects skills to create unique, fiery projects. Students who build flame effect devices to take home may have additional expenses for materials.
PREREQUISITE: Flame Effects I
Fire Hula Hoop I
Hoopnotize your friends with your amazing skills! This energetic course is an introduction to the basics of hooping including using different planes of the body, hoop tricks, and hoop expression through flow and imagination. At the culmination, you will hoop with fire!
Learn the art of fire dancing using poi, staff, and hoop to increase strength and skill in choreography, movement, and tricks with music. Build up to spinning with fire through this course.
PREREQUISITE: Fire Safety
Fire Poi: Intermediate Tricks
Learn to spin poi with greater control and style as you explore the intermediate concepts of plane theory, transitioning, in-spin, anti-spin, and flow. You will practice advanced poi skills, including isolations, stalls, throws/tosses, wraps, flowers, crossers, meltdowns, behind-the-back moves, 5-beat weaves and corkscrews, and more! On the final night you will work with open flame!
PREREQUISITE: Fire Poi: Introduction previously called Art of Fire Dancing I (Poi) or permission by instructor. It is recommended (but not required) to take Fire Safety before this class.
Fire Poi: Introduction
Learn the ancient art of Maori fire dancing. Used by these warriors to increase strength and skill, poi (which means ball) is a form of juggling that uses balls on ropes swung in circular patterns. While learning to spin poi without fire, you will also gain knowledge about the history of the art form and its origins. On the last day of class, students will spin with fire! It is recommended (but not required) to take Fire Safety before this class.
Fire Poi: Turns, Transitions, and Flow
In this fun, supportive class, learn to spin your poi with greater control and style as you explore intermediate tricks for practice with and without fire. Class includes a warm-up/cool-down, introduction to new skills, group activities, and review time for exploration, questions, and troubleshooting. Skills covered include Isolations, Stalls, Throws/Tosses, Wraps, Crossers, Meltdowns, Behind-the-Back Moves, 5-Beat Weaves and Corkscrews, Flowers, Intro to Partnering, and more! We will focus more deeply on concepts such as Plane Theory, Transitions, In-Spin, Anti-Spin, and Flow (moving freely and expressively through the performance space). The last night you will work with open flame! A thorough review of fuel, equipment, and fire safety will be provided.
PREREQUISITE: Art of Fire Dancing I (Poi) or permission by instructor.
Learn to understand what exactly fire is, techniques to prevent uncontained fires, and how to suppress a variety of fire effects. Walk away with a scientific understanding of the sources of fire and its reactions, as well as hands-on experience putting out fire effects under the expert guidance of Christopher T. Palmer. This is the first class in the six part Fire Series.
Fire Staff I
Learn to spin fire staff! Sometimes styled like a weapon; sometimes like a dance partner, staff is a fire performance tool that lends itself to unique movement possibilities. In this class, you will construct a practice staff for use while learning basic tricks, such as rotors, windmills, figure 8s, helicopters, palm spins, wraps, weaves, and behind-the-back moves. On the last night, you will set your staff aflame!
By invitation-only, this select group of individuals—having completed the Fire Series training levels—may be asked to exhibit original fire performances and/or fire effect pieces during The Crucible’s events. Mentorship and coaching will be made available in preparation for and adjudication of pieces prior to public showcase.
PREREQUISITE: Fire Lab
Fire & Performance Youth Classes
We do not currently offer youth classes in our Fire & Performance Department. You can see all The Crucible’s offerings for youth here.
Being Prepared For Your Fire & Performance Class
Fire & Performance classes are held on the second floor of our building, and outside in the gated parking lot. Please contact us if you have any questions about accessibility and we will be happy to accommodate.
Students must arrive for class in all-natural fiber clothing, long pants, and closed-toe, closed-heel shoes with socks that protect up to the ankle. Long hair must be tied back. Nylon, polyester, spandex, or other synthetics are not allowed around machines, equipment, or processes that can produce hot fragments, sparks, or flames.
The Crucible requests students always arrive in studio safe clothing when working. Layers are encouraged as the studio can be very cold or very hot.
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Learning the Art of Fire Spinning
Sharing is Caring!
When a fellow travel blogger recently wrote about fire spinning in Thailand, I realized while I was reading it that I have been amiss with you, dear readers.
You see, I have blatantly (and unintentionally) kept you in the dark about a new part of my own life; a hobby that is both relaxing and actively playful….Fire Spinning!
This post was originally published in 2009. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
It all started with friends of mine who spin. When I first saw them spinning balls of fire on chains (called poi) and twirling fire staffs with the ends ablaze, I thought it looked neat but didn’t have much interest in it myself.
It wasn’t until I picked up a staff one day to try and imitate a move I had seen that I began to think of fire spinning as something I could get into. The staff felt smooth, was a perfect weight, and I realized with a few tips that it wasn’t as difficult as it initially appeared.
Learning new moves felt great, and perfecting the art form of making spinning look good tapped into my love of dance and performance in general.
Months and months after I first picked up a fire poi or fire staff, I was at an outdoor music festival where some friends were “having a burn,” as they say. There were 200 people gathered around a stage about 50 meters away, and on this little patch of grass to the side, about half a dozen people were fire spinning.
“Here, have a go,” said a mate as they relatively unceremoniously tossed me a half-lit staff. “The other side didn’t get fueled up by accident, so you’re stuck with one,” he said.
Ah well, “one’s better than none,” I thought, and started spinning the staff, surprised at the heat and size of the one fireball up close. My friends had been careful to teach me about fire spinning safety, our credo being “learn before you burn”. So I felt prepared for this, my first time spinning fire.
And man, was I on fire (pardon the blatant pun). I had that staff spinning as it had never been spun before.
That is, until I smacked myself in the eye with the unlit end of the staff.
Convinced that I would be toting a black eye for the next week, I glanced up to see who saw my blunder. As luck would have it, if anybody had seen my spinning debacle, they had the good grace to pretend not to have.
So I kept spinning and got back to having fun. Mere minutes later when I was handed a fully lit staff to play with instead, I became confident that nobody saw my eye-poking antics!
“Yikes,” I thought to myself. “It would hurt a lot more if I poked myself in the eye with fire,” I pondered as I swallowed hard and attempted to track the whereabouts of not one but two balls of fire revolving around my body.
Turns out it’s much easier to spin staffs with both ends lit than one…they’re easier to see!
Since then, I’ve had a few chances to have fun with fire spinning and watch fire performers who are much better than I, have a go at it too.
Fire spinning is a beautiful rhythmic flow art dance that requires skill, courage, and practice. I’m so glad I’ve had a chance to try my own hands at it and I highly recommend that you at least give yourself the pleasure of experiencing it.
If you find the beautiful art of fire dance or spinning interesting, then go for it! You never know if it will become your next favorite hobby.
That being said, the fire props I mentioned aren’t the only ones that are being utilized in fire spinning. The pieces of fire spinning equipment that I am familiar with and have used along with some friends are:
- Fire Poi: two balls affixed to lengths of rope with handles. They are manipulated through the air to create beautiful shapes.
- Staff and Double Staves: there are various styles all over the world and are unique in their way.
There are various tools that professional fire artists use such as juggling clubs, fire fans, rope darts, juggling balls, fire swords and knives, and plenty more. They maneuver these to make the beautiful fire art you see!
Take some fire dance classes from a professional or practice with some friends until you finally know how to spin in your free time. It’s fun! Always exercise fire safety and avoid executing this without a guide to prevent any kind of injury or cause any harm.
Traveling with fire toys isn’t easy or space-savvy. Since my initial fire spinning days, I got a set of glow poi, which uses colorful lights instead of fire. They’re super popular at parties! Everybody wants a go, and because there’s no fire it’s totally safe for anybody to play with.
If you’re looking for the perfect glow poi, choose something that is USB rechargeable (eliminating the need to carry batteries) and lightweight. These ones would be my first choice; they’re great for beginners and pack up easily.
All the pictures above are of me, just in case you were wondering. Here are some pictures of various friends of mine fire spinning:
Sharing is Caring!
Fire and dance. Dance with fire
Fire dance or dance with fire is not a new phenomenon in the life of human society. Probably, already in antiquity, dance separated from pantomime.
In past centuries, on a primitive stage, hastily constructed venues, in mobile booths, scenes were played out that used religious mythological and genre scenes as a thematic primary source. The plasticity of the dance was created by the participants of the performance and had an abstract character, only elements of folk dance were introduced into the plot in the form of an appendage, named beyond recognition.
Creative groups acquaint people with their art, popularizing truly folk masterpieces of dance culture, while a successful creative find becomes the property of many if it is organically combined with truly folk dance.
It is impossible to eradicate the national spirit from the dance. First of all, this will be prevented by the metric and rhythmic structure of the national music, the peculiarities of the character and coordination of movements, and most importantly, the manner of performance, habit. An Uzbek will not dance like a Russian; You can't confuse a Negro dance with a Scottish one. Only a culture torn off from national origins ceases to be original.
So, the main task now is to collect, record and preserve folklore dance as a traditional culture of TODAY, as an art created by the people and modified under its own influence.
How to create a quality dance with fire.
The qualitative side of fire show evolution is determined not so much by the degree of technical perfection. poses, movements, effects, manner, performances remain unchanged for a very long time, their combination and expressiveness change. The folklore musical and plastic culture of the people receives a second life on the stage after some processing. If the production of a fire show-dance is prepared for performance on stage, allegedly without the participation of a choreographer, then we can safely quote K. Stanislavsky: “I don’t believe it!” In the fire show there is always a multiple repetition of the same Movements and figures. Spectacle dictates the need for jewelry and competent removal of unnecessary details, changes in dance patterns, performance of movements, in choosing a convenient and advantageous angle for the viewer, and sometimes even in changing or supplementing figurative tasks, but in the spirit and character of the artists creating this dance.
What is Character Dance?
Characteristic classical dance. Character dance is the name of the academic form of national dances. Unlike folk dance, it is based on the techniques of a professional system, therefore, a characteristic dance is characterized by a national flavor, something that gives the event taking place on stage a special authenticity and charm. The characteristic dance is preserved and promoted by folk dance ensembles.
The term "character dance" in its original meaning was used for a dance with a large amount of national characteristic material, and later, a stage (academic) adaptation of folk dance, complicated by professional techniques.
The name of the dance "characteristic-classical" has taken root among professional theater dancers. Having classical dance as its base and, at the same time, being a processed form of folk dance, it carries a characteristic basis and seeks to merge with the folk dance form. These are Spanish, Polish and Italian dances in Swan Lake, Polovtsian dances in the opera Prince Igor, oriental dances in the Fountain of Bakhchisarai, Russian dances in The Little Humpbacked Horse. The existence of different forms of dance within the framework of one ballet performance is quite natural. Here the nature of the folk dance emphasizes the place and time of the action.
Classical dance - the basis of the fire show dance project
Appeared as an independent dance system in the European theater. The main elements were formed in antiquity and improved by professional performers over the centuries. Italy is considered to be the birthplace of dance, and it was developed in France, where it acquired the terminology that choreographers of all countries still use today. And yet the generally accepted academic form of dance was born in Russia. Classical dance was created by careful selection of individual body positions and movements that have completeness and certainty, as well as allowing the use of the plastic capabilities of the human body. Despite the fact that the classic has a limited number of movements and poses, its aesthetic value does not suffer from this. He won the right to a long life by the ability to endlessly combine his relatively meager stocks of movements and merge with adjacent dance forms without losing his face.
The most important principle of eversion, that is, the ability of the dancer(s) to freely turn the legs outward, from the hips to the toes, is achieved through Long Exercises. The eversion allows the use of lateral movements, and in the jump and on pointe shoes it helps to achieve retraction and maximum composure, which prevents possible cases of injury. As an academic discipline (training), classical dance is a dance gymnastics necessary for the development of the expressive means of the performer. The main thing in the teaching of classical dance is the directed emancipation of the entire motor apparatus of the dancer with the ultimate goal of achieving maximum freedom and breadth in the performance of any movements. Classic gives the opportunity to use many different options for a stable body position and contributes to the overall coordination of the dancer in space. Dance lessons with a lot of jumps help to master the “flying”. A certain "tightness" of the body has its advantages - excellent results when working on "drifts", which is possible only with maximum concentration. Excessive, self-sufficient technicality, "beading" is the enemy of figurativeness, but without a refined technique of execution there is no filigree.
The canonized positions of the arms and legs balance the body and develop stability, but partially limit the plasticity. Nevertheless, classical dance purposefully contributes to the development of performing abilities, such as eversion, purity of poses and ease of jumps, harmony of lines and plasticity of movements.
Fire show requires from the artist:
It requires courage and accuracy to some risk, strength and dexterity from a man, all this under the indispensable condition of exceptional composure and attention. Performers must combine coherence, a single tempo and rhythm. The team must work as a single mechanism. Exits care, set fire to props timely, no safety violations. Multiple special effects are triggered at the concert venue and may interfere with the dance performance, however, this is not a hindrance for a professional dancer - juggler - artist. To all this, we can add that pyrotechnic props and stationary (ground, high-rise, park) pyrotechnics smoke the fire show venue, especially if it is a wedding performance of a fire show with a lot of shots - but the artists of the “Best Collections Show” are prepared for all this, noise and the smell does not interfere with work and convey the figurative manner of dance performance.
Duet in a dance
A choreographic duet is an insert element, the plot of a ballet performance or an independent number of a concert program (Divertissement number in an operetta). Waltz, adagio and other musical forms are used as musical accompaniment, but the fast tempo requires a filigree partner's help technique.
In the very first dance combinations, the partner was only slightly raised from the floor. Gradually, the jumps became so complicated that the genius of dance was singled out as a separate discipline.
Duet dances are conditionally divided into two types. The measured one has a minimum of supports, and in the dance "their combinations, the partner uses them only occasionally when performing movements or rotations that require his help. This enriches the expressive colors and pattern of an effective dance. From French it is translated as half, in part, that is," semi-classic ". And right! Classical dance in such a choreographic dialogue is used in part in so far as. Namely: poses, some movements, rounds on pointe shoes, many runs and with the aim of making another preparatory support movement, up to dizzying.
Sometimes it is difficult to find the boundary in such a Duo, where the dance ends and the acrobatics begins. Choreographers justify the use of power techniques in classical dance by the small size of the concert venues. And in operetta theaters, as a rule, they leave a minimal platform for insert numbers.
Sometimes they try to bring some national touches into cascade dances, but this superficial cover in no way brings them closer to folk dance. By adding elements of folk dance to the eccentric (some Movements, a characteristic position of the hands) and even dressing the dancers in a costume close to the national one, but leaving the cascading dance style, you can only diversify the colors, but the spirit of the spectacular and entertaining role will remain.
Modern - a new dance direction in the fire show.
Modern is a code name for the visual trend in modern dance art. As an independent movement, it emerged at the beginning of the 20th century and has various dance schools.
The emergence of a new choreographic school is the result of a search for a kind of dance that would meet the spiritual needs of modern man. Creative search was aimed at depicting feelings in context with figurative tasks. This is a reproduction of passions, experiences through the rhythm, timbre and mood of music, through the logic of feelings; it is an attempt to reveal the inner world of a person through symbolic and naturalistic gestures. Unusual combinations of movements appeared, dispassionate in their generalization, or abstract pathetic images devoid of development were modeled. Some Art Nouveau ballet performances did not have a clearly developed storyline, and the analysis of a narrow range of human sensations or a certain human condition served as the basis for the content. The forerunners of this trend were F. Delsarte and the dancer Isadora Duncan. Supporters of modernism called for the replacement of the "obsolete" classical dance with free dance. Stage improvisation of movements was implied, expressing the momentary mood and feelings of the performers. But be that as it may, these artists misled the viewer: any, I emphasize, any improvisers, whether they are instrumentalists, dancers or poets (including akyns in Central Asia), use “homemade preparations” in their performances.
Modernists believed that the natural plasticity of a person (without eversion and pointe shoes) is quite expressive. They declared twisting to be unnatural and opposed classical dance with their own abstract, sensual, supposedly improvised.
And let's not forget that everything on the stage is for fun. Even pure classics.
In the second half of the 20th century, a path of mutual understanding was paved between the supporters of classical dance and dance "modern" - the process of mutual enrichment began. By this time, the new modernist choreographers had adopted a lot from the experience of classical dance, developed and tested such areas of expression as the dance state of weightlessness in space dances, the state of a person in a dream, etc.
Many finds of the "modern" school are now used in rhythmoplasty, and rhythmic gymnastics can be considered its offspring.
The rapprochement of abstract and academic dance, the conversion of modernists to the classical heritage, undoubtedly, expanded the technical and plastic possibilities of the new trend in ballet art, but did not change its essence.
Modern choreographers are fascinated by plotlessness, the absence of a unified dramaturgy. They tend to analyze only individual feelings. All these artificial self-restrictions left a very narrow springboard for creativity, reminiscent of an in-depth study of one's own navel, somewhat similar to the teachings of yoga. The question of the usefulness or worthlessness of introspection, and this equally applies to the teachings of yoga, has not yet been resolved, since practicing this system gives someone an undoubted benefit.
Poing: playing with fire
In an age when spaceships are roaming the universe, and everyone is talking about innovative technologies and super-gadgets, human nature remains unchanged. We, just like our primitive ancestors, are fascinated and put into a state close to a trance by the same things - simple drum rhythms, fire and dance.
It is believed that the first to spin poi (balls or stones on long ropes) were the indigenous people of New Zealand. The art of dancing with balls was both an important part of ritual ceremonies and a training in agility and coordination for male warriors and hunters. Up to now poing got in different ways: wandering circus artists eagerly included it in their repertoire, Australian surfers and hippies were fond of it.
Here it is necessary to clarify that poing - twisting balls on chains or ropes - is, let's say, the basic version of the dance. Today, many young people are fond of a more complex subspecies of poing - fire shows. Surely you have seen dancers with fiery torches on the streets of the city more than once. They all start by twisting the food.
A fire show is, first of all, an amazing spectacle, to be a part of which is a great pleasure. The twisting of fireballs (fireworks) is addictive. Fakirs seem to handle fire so easily, their dance is complex and dangerous. Often they perform numbers, uniting in pairs - of course, the success of the public is colossal, people can spend hours watching the fiery figures moving to the rhythm of the drums. You can dance to any music, but most often these are ethnic motives. An incomparable sight and feeling is the fireworker's dance on the seashore, on the sand, during sunset. That is why fire shows are so popular, for example, in India.
Despite the apparent lightness and freedom of movement, each element of the dance is perfected to the smallest detail. Fireworkers spend hours practicing drawings - a figure eight, a butterfly, a flower. The richer the dancer's arsenal of movements, the more spectacular his performance. Professional firemen sometimes include various acrobatic movements in their performances. Poy dancing is a great way to develop core, motor skills, coordination and balance. In dance it is difficult to think with your head, here your body works and feels. It's also a great way to develop your artistic skills and overcome self-esteem issues. Especially recommended for shy girls - dancing with fire liberates, and the delight of the audience leaves no chance of self-doubt.
- The most standard option: fire poi , chains with Kevlar wicks at the ends. The wicks are soaked in a flammable liquid (most often kerosene) and set on fire. Advanced firemen are like jugglers - their arsenal is not limited to just poi.
- Increasingly, artists perform with a pole ( staff ), a metal tube that burns at both ends. This is a completely separate, huge and complex branch of the art of dancing with fire. The staff is either twisted in the hands, making various complex rotations, or “rolled” over the body, almost without touching. This "contact" technique is considered the most difficult.
- Girls often perform with burning bowls held in the palm of their hands,
- ...as well as fans - designs with several beams, at the end of which there are wicks. Such dances look very, very impressive.
- Professionals juggle with burning clubs and spin nunchucks - there is plenty of room for development.
Begin training, of course, without fire.
- Poi can be built on your own - for this you will need socks or stockings, in which you need to pour something loose and soft, for example, buckwheat, so that, in which case, it does not hurt. Also suitable are ribbons or chains, at the end of which tennis balls are fixed.
- The simplest figures are worked out in a couple of days - however, be prepared for the fact that at first you will hit yourself in the forehead more than once. In poing, regular training is very important, literally for several hours a day. Hands and body should get used to, hone the movements, and subsequently not forget them.
- A good way to speed up your learning is to find a company of firemen and train with them, or even better, enroll in a poing school, since there are a lot of them now.
- You can also watch videos online.
- For determined students, a good option is to go to Asia, the Mecca of firemen.